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Plant Asters not Mums

Chrysanthemums or Mums for short are one of the most admired fall flowers. Garden Centers feature them along with other fall decorations like corn stalks and pumpkins. They come in such an array of colors on saturated compact plants that little of the plant itself is visible. They are often marketed as Hardy Mums giving the impression that they will return season after season once established in your yard. Few of them actually do.

Mums, which originate from China and thereabouts, have been cultivated for more than a millennium with many hundreds of cultivars being produced. The noxious weed sometimes called wild chrysanthemum is actually a mugwort, a type of Artemesia. While Mums are popular with humans, they have little appeal to our native pollinators.

Choose New England Aster Instead

Most perennial plants have a limited flowering period. Only a few will bloom for more than a month. Pollinators are active roughly from April through October here in Northern Ohio. Monarch butterflies migrate in the fall, some nectaring on the very last blooms on their way to central Mexico. A rich pollinator patch should, therefore, have plants that continue blooming and providing resources until freezing weather descends.

One of my favorite fall bloomers, here

photographed in mid-october, is New England Aster, Symphyotrichum novae-angliae. Its purple petals and orange disk are a welcome site in any landscape. It may begin blooming as early as August and will continue until frost. It can reach as tall as five feet and just as wide. It grows best in moist soil and full sun to partial shade. It will benefit from division every few years and may self-seed in suitable areas.

New England Aster is native to most of North America and serves pollinators as they forage for some of their last meals and provision their nests for a long winter break.

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